Bob Collymore : Safaricom doesn’t force anyone to join

Giant telco CEO says Safaricom success down to customer choice

He is back with a bang. After a nine month absence due to medical leave, Safaricom chief executive officer Bob Collymore was at it again, reprising his role as the company’s chief defender.

The Guyana born British businessman appeared for three and a half hours at a Parliamentary hearing on Monday morning. When asked by the National Assembly’s Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation whether the giant telco’s dominance was hindering competition in the telecommunications sub-sector, he said no.

“Thirty million customers have made a conscious decision to come onto Safaricom’s network,” he said.

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Kenya’s largest mobile phone operator has been on the spot as a group of telcos have petitioned Parliamentary intervention to regulate the dominance of Safaricom. The firms argue that any company that has more than 50% share of the market should be declared dominant.

Being declared dominant would not necessarily be a bad thing for Safaricom, but it would allow the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to regulate the giant telcos practices and assess whether they are harmful to the rest of the competition.

In May, the CA drafted a proposal seeking to allow Safaricom’s rivals access to its transmission sites and its vast network of mobile money outlets so as to increase competition in the sector. The National Assembly’s ICT Committee is considering whether CA’s proposal has merit and whether any measures should be taken to boost competition.

Currently, Safaricom holds a 66.5% control over the market. Airtel comes second with 28.7% while Telkom Kenya is at 4.6%.

After the hearing, Collymore said he was confident the Parliamentary committee was not going to ‘punish the success of Safaricom.’

“I didn’t get the sense from the committee that they are looking to cut Safaricom down to size. They are really genuinely examining whether there is anything else that needs to be done to encourage more competition in the market place.”

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In his absence, Safaricom’s share price has risen 11%, something its CEO attributed to the team he left behind when he proceeded for treatment in October for a yet to be disclosed ailment.

“The team has done a fantastic job in my absence, you saw the results in the full year. Now it is a little bit more about refocusing on the strategy in the company, ensuring that the strategy remains relevant; it is refreshed.”

*quotes from Reuters

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